The 1st of February is considered the first day of Spring in Ireland and has major cultural significance. We call this day 'Imbolc', or St. Brigid's Day. Imbolc means 'in the belly' and refers to sheep giving birth to lambs at this time of year, and symbolises the longer, warmer days that are coming- the birth of the good weather! It's an ancient Celtic tradition, thousands of years old, which we still observe today!
The day is named after St. Brigid who was probably a pre-Christian Celtic goddess but when Irish people converted to Christianity, the new church changed her into a Christian saint instead. The story about her is that she was born a slave but later became famous as a saviour of poor and vulnerable people. Irish people believed she protected babies, blacksmiths, sailors, farmers, children whose parents were unmarried, children whose mothers were mistreated, desperate fugitives, midwives, nuns, poets, the poor and travelers, amongst others.
There's a funny story about when she was a child she kept giving away her owner's possessions to all poor people she would met. Eventually he became frustrated and he took her to the king to give her away. While discussing matters with the king, Brigid gave away the king's gold and jewel-encrusted sword to a beggar!
She is one of my favourite saints/ Celtic deities because she is associated with helping the poor but she's also a very strong woman who is not controlled by men in her society. She was an inspiration to women in Ireland's past. An early Irish feminist!
Each year on St. Brigid's Day people would leave food and drink in their homes and make a bed for Brigid, hoping she would bless the house because of this hospitality. All Irish school children make Brigid Crosses on this day from rushes found in wetlands, and here's a picture of one I made for Eire which is probably not the prettiest example! St. Brigid will not be impressed with my artistic skills...